We’re a camping and picnicking family, and we like to pack a game or two in case things slow down. We’d much rather play a game when waiting in an unexpected line or at a restaurant; it keeps the noses out of the phones.
How do we pick a portable game? First, it needs to have a small footprint. After taking away the box and rulebooks, the remaining pieces need to fit neatly into a small space. This is especially important in the camper, where space is at a premium. Second, it needs to to play on almost any surface. We may find ourselves on a picnic table, but we’re also likely to be sitting on a beach blanket or around a neat sheet near the Washington Monument. Minatures and counter cubes are not right for that environment. Finally, it needs replay value. Games that can be played repeatedly and still be entertaining are key.
Have you ever opened a game box to find it looking like this?
Me, too. Maybe it dropped on the floor, maybe it got shuffled a bit in the car, or maybe it always looks like that. Cards and dice and parts – everywhere. The bottom line is, you have to clean up the game before you can even begin setting up for your fun. And that puts a damper on the party.
From the box: “Create your own journey with Tsuro, the Game of the Path. Place a tile and slide your stone along the path created, but take care. Other player’s paths can lead you in the wrong direction – or off the board entirely. Find your way wisely to succed. Stay the path – your journey begins here.”
In order to help guide us in our new game purchases, we’ve started keeping track of which games see a table at each event. If you see Loy typing on her cell phone during an event, that’s likely what she’s up to!
From the box: “Play as your favorite characters and defend the wizarding world from evil forces. Enhance your abilities as you build your deck with over 140 cards. Seven successive game adventures offer increasing difficulty as you battle Villains and unlock new abilities, secrets and challenges. Also included are four HOGWARTS house dice, game board, over 50 chip pieces, and sorting cards to keep everything organized.”
Board games are trending; gone are the days of flipped Monopoly boards and endless games of Clue. Join us for Eurogames such as Catan and Carcassonne; deck builders such as Dominion or Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle; strategy and tactics titles such as 7 Wonders or Splendor; we even have cooperative games like Pandemic and 5 Minute Dungeon! If you haven’t played, you should – a night of fun gaming with friends is the perfect antidote to cabin fever and endless online distraction.
Moonjava will have plenty of coffee and tasty treats on hand. $5 per person – bring a friend and your thirst for adventure!
From the box: “Players take on the role of Lords seeking new lands to expand their kingdom. As with ‘Dominoes’, these new lands must match the landscape tiles that have already been played. You need to create large areas of the same landscape type. But these will only score points if there is at least one crown on a tile. Points for each landscape type are calculated at the end of the game by multiplying these two together: so the number of squares times the number of crowns. Before this however, you’ll need to pay attention to your choice of tile, which decides the order of play for the following round. Taking a good tile now means you’ll play later next time. Each round presents the players with new important decisions as to which tile they should take.”
From the box: “Two players compete to make the best quilt! In the past, it was a way to make use of leftover pieces of cloth to create clothing and quilts. Today, patchwork is a form of art, in which the designers use precious fabrics to create beautiful textiles. To create a beautiful quilt, however, requires effort and time, but the available patches just do not want to fit together. So choose your patches carefully and keep a healthy supply of buttons to not only finish your quilt, but to make it better and more beautiful than your opponent‘s.”
Dan says: “Patchwork is a nice little tile-laying game for two players. In it you’re buying and placing patches of various Tetris-like shapes onto your square tableau. The play is ‘timed’ against a spiral board where your pawns move toward the center. Each ‘patch’ has a potential button and ‘time’/movement cost, so picking which of 3 available patches to buy has to measure the cost against the gain, including its fit in your tableau and the buttons it can earn you. Quick to pick up with lots of replay value, this game is a great 2-player game.”
Let’s face it, board games don’t have the best rep. Many folks think back to childhood, only to remember awkwardness or – even worse – frustration, anger, and flipped tables. Monopoly seems to be a regular complaint. But modern board games are different! How do you convince your friends to come and enjoy a terrific night out?
One excellent way to bring in a new gamer is to tie in a current interest. Does your friend like sewing or quilting? How about Patchwork – a two-player game where players pay for Tetris-like quilt pieces with buttons, then use them to create the best 7×7 square.
Maybe your friend is an adventure seeker; try Forbidden Island – a cooperative game where players race to collect four archeological treasures before the cursed island sinks beneath them. This board game can be pulse pounding as you turn the cards that determine which parts of the island sink each turn.
And who doesn’t like Sushi? Sushi Go Party is a card passing game where each player tries to create the best menu. The rules are so simple, they’re printed on each card. It has an added benefit of some of the most adorable Japanese style artwork we’ve ever seen on a game.
New gamers are often confused and overwhelmed by the sheer number of pieces and complexity of modern games. So keep it as simple as possible.
For example, 5 Minute Dungeon has five decks of cards (one for each player) and five monsters to defeat. Defeat the monsters by matching up symbols on your cards with the symbols on the monster card. The hardest part about this cooperative game is that it’s on a five minute timer. But at least you can assure your friend that each round only takes five minutes!
Apples to Apples, the racier Love 2 Hate, and the extremely racy Cards Against Humanity all work on the same simple premise – one person lays down a card and everyone else picks a card that matches (or doesn’t, which can be even more fun). I say potato, you say vodka. Everybody laughs and we move to the next round.
Codenames is a set of 25 words, of which your team’s spymaster is trying to get you to guess nine. But the spymaster can only give a single word as a clue. There used to be an old game show called Password that worked similarly. Simple rules, but this game is challenging, engrossing, and rewarding.
Let Them Play
So you managed to get your friend to come out and play. Now what? Let them play. It’s very easy for an experienced board gamer to see possible outcomes of any given decision. Remember the fun you had figuring out a game for the first time? Bottle that and let your friend figure it out for themselves. There is no greater buzzkill than having someone else play your moves for you. No matter how silly the decision, let your friend make it!
Don’t Play to Win
I used to think there were two kinds of gamers out there – those who play to win and those who play to enjoy. Now I know that the same person can play both ways. So play to enjoy. Your friend is just learning. Chat about their choices, poke some gentle fun at game-changing moves, but don’t decimate them. You can even play open-handed (with cards visible on the table) to help the learning experience. Be cool and play for fun the first time; the next game will be the one that “counts.”
Keep Them Coming
Finally, listen to your friend. Every game is not for every player. If they don’t like a particular game, find out why and suggest something else. Be willing to play the games that they like, rather than your favorite all the time. Who knows? Eventually they may appreciate more complexity and realism in a game and ask for something more complex. You’ll never know if you don’t start small.
Bring a friend to the next Decks, Dice, and Meeples event; we’ll help you pick out a game or two that might suit.
From the box: “Released to critical acclaim in 2000, Carcassonne has long captivated audiences with its simple yet engaging gameplay. Now you can experience the best the 2001 Spiel des Jahres winner has to offer. The 2017 version of the Carcassonne big box combines the base game along with eleven of its expansions, making it the perfect starter set for anyone who wants to play this bestselling game with as much variety as possible. Including the inns & cathedrals, traders & builders, the Abbot, the River, the flying machines, the ferries, the messengers, the gold mines, mage & witch, the robbers, and the crop circles expansions, the Carcassonne big box includes more than 150 tiles and seven different types of Meeple.”